FOR FREEDOM AND PERFECTION. The Life of Yané Sandansky
Mercia MacDermott





During those difficult months of confusion and disarray, Yané emerged as one of the Organization’s most outstanding leaders. Nominally, he was still only the Melnik voivoda; in fact, his influence and authority extended far beyond the boundaries of his official district.


For one so strong-willed and so capable, Yané displayed little personal ambition in the ordinary sense of the word. Apparently content to operate with maximum efficiency upon his own home ground, he sought neither rank nor title beyond that which he already possessed. Nor had he need of such, for he derived his power and prestige less from any office that he might hold than from the sheer force of his personality and his ability to win the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Enemies he had in plenty, and their number increased as the ideological struggles within and without the Organization grew more intense, yet the simple peasants adored him, returning love for love, and bringing to him their troubles and complaints, confident in their belief that he both could and would solve all their problems for them. So great was their regard for him that many felt awkward about addressing him simply as ‘Yané’. He, on the other hand, disliked being called voivoda—possibly because it smacked of the Supremist airs and graces which were so repugnant to him. The people, with their unerring power of invention, found a way out of their dilemma by referring to him, despite his youth, as Starika (the ‘Old Man’—an appellation which implied respect without undue formality.


What Yané meant to the people of the Pirin area is most eloquently expressed in a letter written by a Vlah from Lopovo, [1] who began by saying that Yané was like ‘the Lord God’ to the Vlahs, who loved, entertained and watched over him, because his presence in Pirin provided them with a measure of security, law and order that had previously been conspicuously absent. ‘For us Vlahs,’ the writer concluded, ‘Sandansky was



1. Lopovo consisted of some 680 souls, living in 120 cottages, which were deserted during the winter, when the Vlahs grazed their flocks by the Aegean Sea. They would leave Lopovo around Dimitrovden (October 26), and return at Easter with their families. The animals would follow after Gergyovden (May 6). Each household owned several horses and between 50 and 300 sheep. About ten families were really rich and possessed anything up to 2,000 sheep each. Apart from stock-rearing, the Vlahs worked as carriers, using their horses, and they would also descend to the plains villages as seasonal workers at harvest time.





everything. . .’ [2]


One of the sources of insecurity mentioned by the Vlah was the influx of Supremist cheti, in particular, those led by Doncho Zlatkov, who had little compunction about robbing, kidnapping or killing, especially if the victims were of a different nationality. Like the Bourbon ancestors of Prince Ferdinand, the Supremists neither learned nor forgot. The grass had barely covered the graves of the victims of their ill-conceived impetuousity before they were back in Macedonia, uninvited and bent on increasing their sphere of influence. Before the Rising, this had been confined to the Petrich, Malesh and Gorna Dzhumaya districts, but now they were determined to penetrate into the neighbouring districts of Razlog, Kresna and Strumitsa. Above all, however, they sought to gain control of Yané’s Melnik district, for, in the course of the Rising and its aftermath, they had come to know him for what he was: their most implacable opponent and the most dangerous of all their foes.


The last thing that the Serchani wanted was renewed civil war, and they tried to reason with the Supremists, telling the intruders that they should either go home or join the Organization on a regular basis and work according to its programme. The characteristic policy of the Serchani is reflected in Revolyutsionen List, a periodical which first appeared in August 1904, and was printed in Sofia. Revolyutsionen List set out to provide a forum for all shades of opinion within the Organization, but it was basically a paper of the Left. Dimo Hadzhidimov was a frequent contributor, under the pen-name Avitsenus (Avicenna), and he wrote many articles criticizing not only the Supremists, but also the groups around Sarafov and Hristo Matov.


In these articles, Hadzhidimov makes a clear distinction between ‘revolution’ and ‘rebellion’, between ‘revolutionizing’ the people and merely rousing them to revolt. By ‘rebellion’ the Left meant ill-prepared adventures of the kind that the Supremists had instigated, while by ‘revolution’ they meant the achievement of a radical transformation of people’s attitudes and outlook as a prelude to an equally radical transformation of the existing economic and political system.


‘The chief task of our Organization is not to instigate rebellion, but to educate the population for a free life, and to lead it in the fight for those rights which are essential for such a life.’ These words from the Directive [3] prepared by the Left after the post-mortem in Sofia are echoed and developed in several of Hadzhidimov’s articles: ‘The Organization, which has set itself the aim of "winning through revolution political freedom for



2. OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1709. From a letter written by Mihai Popescu, son of Shteryo, to Georgi Kotsev, and dated 29.VI.1970. Popescu emigrated to Rumania in 1929. Shteryo was a miller and fuller, who lived in Lopovo during the summer and in Kovachevo during the severe Pirin winter, and was a good friend of Yané’s.


3. Quoted in Hadzhidimov’s article, Two Tendencies, in Revolyutsionen List, No. 8, 27.I.1905.





Macedonia and the Adrianople Region", has, at the same time set itself i he tasks of 1) leading the population to political consciousness, 2) broadening its intellectual horizon, 3) organizing it for struggle, and 4) gradually, by doing away with every barrier, creating the conditions which lead to the final aim. It (the Organization-M.M.) based itself on a purely revolutionary movement in people’s minds, outlook and lives for a true democratization of the population. In short, it laid the foundations for a revolutionary cultural movement, without which all written freedoms remain on paper, and every freedom given and not consciously won is futile and transient. . . In order to bring lasting benefits alongside the impermanent evils, a revolutionary organization must not have as its instruments blind and ignorant mobs. A beneficient revolution must never lose sight of the fact that its aim is not merely to create the gravediggers of tyranny, but simultaneously to make of them people capable of raising the splendid temple of freedom and of protecting it.’ [4]


It was essential that not merely the Bulgarian majority, but all the nationalities in Macedonia be involved in the process of transformation, and here again the Supremists were threatening the success of the Organization’s programme. The Ilinden Rising had revealed the strength of the Bulgarian population and its degree of organization, and one of the Rising’s more disastrous consequences had been a sharp increase in the activity of Serbian and Greek cheti, equipped by their respective governments and intent on furthering their own national ambitions by subverting or destroying all that was Bulgarian in Macedonia. The continued appearance of Supremist cheti from Bulgaria only exacerbated the situation, fanning the wild fire of nationalism and unwittingly provoking foreign intervention, far from facilitating the reunification of Macedonia with the Principality, the Supremists were, in practice—whether they realized it or not—making the future division of Macedonia inevitable, and were condemning numbers of their fellow-country-men to lose their identity under foreign rule.


Within a free, autonomous Macedonia all nationalities would have their own schools, churches and institutions, and there would be neither assimilation nor repression. But, in order to achieve this, it was necessary to find ways to unite rather than divide the population. One way to unite them was through the economic programme of the Organization, which sought to achieve real improvements as regards taxation, minimum wages for hired labourers, etc. ‘By waging an economic struggle side by side with political struggle, the Organization not only binds unto itself the materially ruined and godlessly exploited population, but also, with the abolition of a whole series of the oppressive economic regulations with which Turkish tyranny has fettered this population, it will create much more favourable conditions for its own liberating activity: the more the



4. Revolyutsionen List, No. 9, 25.II.1905, p. 10.





population has a foretaste of the sweet fruits of freedom, the more enthusiastically will it embrace the struggle. Moreover, an economic struggle directed against the exploiters for the benefit of all the oppressed, regardless of nationality and religion, can convince the interested neighbouring states that the Organization acts completely independently and without bias, having exclusively in mind the interests of the whole enslaved population. The Organization has long played the role of a state within the State. Its mechanism must be based on the most modern, up-to-date principles. It must gradually supercede the Turkish regime in every respect, so that one day it may change from a secret revolutionary organization into an open federated state. And, in order to do this, it must undermine and demolish the foundations of this regime, and, at the same time, lay the firm, unshakeable foundations of the future state.’ [5]


For geographical reasons, the Serres Region was little troubled by Serbian cheti, and even the Greeks concentrated their attentions elsewhere until after 1905. In other areas of the Organization’s territory, however, especially in Vardar Macedonia, Serbian armed propaganda was becoming an ever-increasing menace. Whereas the Greeks were crudely anti-Bulgarian, openly offering a choice between hellenization and annihilation, the Serbs favoured a cunning mixture of bribery and force, trying to win people over, before resorting to the mailed fist. Unlike the Organization, the Serbian cheti in Macedonia had means and weapons in plenty, but they lacked local support, and therefore they had to recruit, lulling Bulgarian consciences with protestations of brotherhood, offers of financial help, scholarships for children, etc. Even before the Rising, they had been helping fugitives from Macedonia, mainly haramii, and during the winter of 1903-1904, they had offered assistance to those of the Organization’s chetnitsi who had escaped across the border into Serbia.


The year 1904 saw a marked improvement in relations between Serbia and Bulgaria. During the winter and spring, there were friendly meetings and discussions between students from the universities of Sofia and Belgrade, with general agreement that Macedonia was a question solely for those who lived there. In March, an agreement was signed at government level between the two countries, affirming their mutual desire for peace, brotherhood, the implementation of the Mürtzsteg reforms, and the maintenance of the status quo. In the event of any quarrel between the fraternal lands, the Russian Tsar or the International Court in The Hague were to be asked to act as mediators. In May King Peter of Serbia and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria met in Nish, and in October King Peter visited Sofia.


Such, however, was the Machiavellian character of Serbian policy that even while the rapprochement was in full swing at government and student level, cheti were infiltrating into Macedonia with far from brotherly



5. Revolyutsionen List, No. 10, 15.III.1905, p. 8.





intentions. Unfortunately, the Serbs were actually assisted in their plans by Boris Sarafov, whose good sense was often outweighed by his taste for international connections, large-scale fund raising, and the spectacular personal coup. Lured by the apparently friendly attitude of the Serbs and their willingness to provide substantial sums of money, Sarafov decided that the Serbs and Bulgarians could work together in Macedonia, along revolutionary lines, providing that Serbian money and cheti were sent into the interior with the agreement and approval of the Organization. Over a period of months, both personally and through agents, he negotiated with the Serbs, received assurances that they were willing to work in the manner which he suggested, and obtained a total of some 40,000 dinars. Sarafov’s negotiations, undertaken as usual off his own bat, disturbed the Organization’s representatives in Sofia, and they again sent emissaries to observe what was going on. This display of suspicion and lack of unity within the Organization encouraged the Serbs, and they determined to use the Organization for their own purposes.


Even while Sarafov was busy with his negotiations, a cheta financed by the Serbian consulate in Bitolya, and led by a former haramiya named Mitso, was making a nuisance of itself in Poreché (Kichevo District) and had even managed to capture Damé Gruev, who was released a month later on Serbian Government insistence. In August 1904, another cheta of some 60 men, organized in Belgrade and led by Gligor Sokolov, a former chetnik from the Prilep area, crossed into Macedonia, and then divided into groups which went to the Skopje, Kichevo, Ohrid and Prilep districts. They were able to get through, because the local committees, who knew of the comings and goings between Sofia and Belgrade, but were not fully apprised of the situation, accepted them on Sarafov’s authority. Gligor took advantage of the quarrels and rivalries between Centralists, Gemidzhii [6] and Sarafists within the Veles District to establish himself firmly in Azot—the area in the basins of the rivers Topolka and Babuna, and then proceeded to establish links with Serbomanes in Poreché. At one point, Peré Toshev, one of the most senior leaders of the Organization, not realizing that Gligor was really a Serbian agent, attempted to enlist his help in rescuing Damé from Mitso, but was himself captured by Gligor and his men. Peré escaped death only by threatening that the Organization would kill their families, and he was released. Two of the Organization’s voivodi, Slaveiko Arsov and Kosta Nunkov—the latter with his whole cheta—perished as a result of treachery on the part of the Kumanovo Serbomanes, who were systematically betraying Bulgarian revolutionaries to the Turks.


It was not only Sarafov’s misguided negotiations with the Serbs that



6. ‘Centralists’ was a term used to describe members of the Internal Organization (headed by its Central Committee), as opposed to adherents of the Supreme Committee. Gemedzhii (boatmen) was the name adopted by the extremists responsible for the bombings in Salonika during 1903, and by those who sympathized with them.





created problems for the Organization in Western Macedonia. Sarafov was also using the funds at his disposal to equip his own cheti, under Panayot Baychev, Bobi Stoychev and Ivan Naumov (Alyabaka), who crossed into Macedonia and stirred up further trouble by challenging the local leadership of the Organization in the Veles and Kumanovo areas. Indeed, Baychev’s cheta had been only an hour away when the District cheta under Nunkov was fighting its last battle with the Turks, but it had done nothing to help.


Sarafov’s cronies were also threatening the Organization in the Serres District. During 1904, Lt. Sotir Atanasov, of the Shumen Garrison Artillery, had taken leave on the advice of Sarafov and set out for the Nevrokop district with some ten men. There he met the veteran voivoda Dyado Iliya Kŭrchovaliyata, an ex-haramiya won for the Organization many years previously, and together they set out for Demir Hisar. Hearing of Atanasov’s arrival, Yané wrote to Dyado Iliya and fixed a rendezvous to discuss the question. Unfortunately, Dyado Iliya, though a valuable and experienced fighter, was, like many other ex-haramii, illiterate, and he asked Atanasov to read the letter to him. This the officer did, but he took advantage of the old man’s disability and changed parts of it, so that Dyado Iliya had the impression that Yané was calling him ‘a bandit’ and ‘a pig’, and was uttering sundry threats against him. He then wrote a suitably abusive answer on Dyado Iliya’s behalf, which he hoped would lead to a rupture between the two men. Yané, however, was not taken in. He guessed that Atanasov had had a hand in the affair, and sent several more letters to which he received answers of an extremely hostile character. Towards the end of 1904, Atanasov went to the village of Karakyoy, which was just inside the Nevrokop District. At about the same time, two of the Organization’s leaders, Dimitŭr Arnaudov and Dimitŭr Ikonomov, who was a native of Lovcha, also arrived in Karakyoy, and were informed of the officer’s presence. That evening they arrested Atanasov and his men and took them to Lovcha. Here they were joined by both Yané and Dyado Iliya, and there was a thorough investigation of the whole affair. Yané’s letters, which were found on Atanasov, were read to Dyado Iliya in their proper form, together with another letter which Atanasov had written to the Organization’s leaders in Karakyoy, telling them that Arnaudov and Ikonomov had been sentenced to death, and that they, too, would be, if they continued to obey them. Even when the ugly truth came out, Yané insisted, and persuaded his comrades, that Atanasov should not be punished, but merely sent back to the Principality. Some of his men elected to stay in Macedonia and were sent to the various cheti. [7]



7. Arnaudov, Opus cit., pp. 7-8. Revolyutsionen List, (No. 16, 5.VII.1905) published an account of a ‘declaration’ which it had received from Dyado Iliya and two of his aides, in which they said that they had temporarily been subverted and led astray by Sarafov when they had been in Sofia after the Rising, but had realized their





Fair words and reasoned arguments carried little weight with the Supremists, who continued to persecute the Organization’s members and to sabotage its work. Much of their activity was criminal rather than political. Officers, including Yordan Stoyanov, demeaned themselves by extorting money through threats and kidnapping from the inhabitants of Oshtava, Senokos, Mechkul and other Pirin villages. They even emulated the tactics of the Phanariot Greeks and urged the peasants to betray local members of the Organization, telling them that since the Turks left the Supremist cheti in peace, they, too, would be left in peace if they abandoned the Organization for the Supreme Committee. These, and other deeds unbecoming to officers, led a correspondent of Revolyutsionen List, writing from Gorna Dzhumaya under the pseudonym of Drak, to end his article with the words: ‘We are already asking ourselves: are there any Bulgarians in free Bulgaria?’ [8]


Yané’s patience ran out when, in 1905, Yordan Stoyanov invaded the Melnik District.


At the beginning of April, according to Georgi Kotsev, [9] Yané received a letter from Tasko Stoilov in Kocherinovo, saying that Stoyanov was in the village of Rila with 56 men, eating, drinking and threatening to settle his score with Yané. The latter alerted all village leaders of the Organization and asked them to inform him as soon as ‘the guests’ arrived. After the cheta had passed through the Gorna Dzhumaya area, the Captain sent a letter to the Myudur of Kresna, denouncing several members of the Organization in Vlahi, Bozhdovo and Debrené for sheltering and abetting Yané, and indicating that as long as these men were at liberty, Yané would continue to disturb the peace of the Melnik district. His men then proceeded to beat up Yané’s supporters, fining the richer ones, as the cheta moved southwards from village to village. [10]


When Stoyanov had set out, Yané had been in Bansko, with his Melnik cheta, three Social-Democrat students, and Petko Penchev, a young man from Varna, who had come to work in Macedonia, and was a member of



mistake after the arrival of Atanasov. All three declared their opposition to Sarafov and their loyalty to the Organization.


Sarafov himself was unrepentant. In an article in Revolyutsionen List (No. 15, 12.VI.1905) he admitted sending most of the people complained of, and even agreed that Baychev and the others had done bad things in Western Macedonia. He claimed that Atanas Teshovaliyata (who had been killed the previous month) had asked for Atanasov (although such a request was invalid unless it had been authorized by the Regional Committee) and he justified his actions by saying that ‘the sole aim of our activity was to assist the Cause’.


8. Revolyutsionen List, No. 14, 15.V.1905, pp. 12-13.


9. From unpublished memoirs, dated 18.IV.1969, signed by Georgi Kotsev and given to Pirinsko Delo. These are similar to the memoirs contained in OIM Blagoevgrad, 1596.


10. More information about similar actions on the part of the Supremists is contained in Drak’s article in Revolyutsionen List, No. 14, 15.V.1905, and in the paper’s Official Supplement, 2.VI.1905.





the Serres Regional Committee. On hearing of Stoyanov’s arrival in the Melnik district, they set out from Bansko across Pirin, but, on the way, several of them were badly bruised by an avalanche, so they all returned to Bansko. [11] Later, they set out again, and arrived unscathed in the Melnik district.


Yané had followed Stoyanov’s progress minutely, and, having summoned the Nevrokop, Demir Hisar and Serres cheti to reinforce his own, he was now in command of some eighty men. On April 16 (new style), Stoyanov arrived in the village of Kashina. Three days later, he sent a letter to his contacts in Kovachevo, still further to the south, telling them to prepare food and accommodation. Yané, too, had been sending and receiving letters, and making arrangements for the ‘guests’ to be received in a fitting manner. Andon Kyoseto, whom he had once urged to rely more on propaganda than on cruel terroristic actions, had also come to the Melnik area in the wake of the Supremists. Captain Stoyanov was openly telling everybody that he had been sent to catch Yané and his comrades alive and take them bound to the Principality, and, if this was not possible, he would take their heads.


Through the Organization’s post, Andon and Yané drew up a plan by which Andon was to track Stoyanov, while Yané would move ahead of him and set up an ambush at a place called Belish Andŭk, where the Supremists would have to descend into a deep dark ravine. The Supremists set out for Kovachevo at night, by moonlight, and as soon as they reached the appointed place, Yané’s men opened fire and several Supremists fell to the ground. Stoyanov himself and the group leader, Gospodarev, were wounded, but they managed to hide under some blackberry-bushes. [12] Deprived of their leader, the Supremists started to retreat in panic, whereupon Andon Kyoseto’s group opened fire from the rear, calling on them to surrender or be exterminated. They surrendered, and were disarmed. The victors then bandaged the wounded Supremists, with the exception of Stoyanov and Gospodarev, who remained armed and as still as hares in their hiding place, so that they were not found, even though Yané personally searched the battlefield for Stoyanov by the light of a pine-wood splinter.


Unable to solve the mystery of Stoyanov’s disappearance, Yané marched his prisoners back to Kashina. Here, he singled out six who had more than once invaded the Organization’s territory and had committed crimes there. These he arraigned before a revolutionary court. Four were sentenced to death and immediately executed, and two were set free.



11. Memoirs of Hristo Kirov (from Razlog), OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 481. Kirov, a teacher, joined the Organization in 1901.


12. The Supremist newspaper Reformi reported that he hid under a tree-stump, where water had washed out a hollow. Reformi, 22.IV.1905. Blackberry-bushes, however, are mentioned in most other sources.





The rest, thirty or more men, [13] were given the choice of joining the Organization or of being sent back to the Principality. Those who elected to go home were told that they had violated the Statute of the Organization, but that this time they would not be punished. They were asked, however, to tell those who had sent them not to send them again, since their activity only hindered the struggle for liberation. If their intention was to provoke a war, let them understand, once and for all, that Macedonia would never be freed by war. War would bring only ruin to the people. [14]


Captain Stoyanov, too, managed to get back to the Principality. After everybody had left the field, he crept out from under his blackberry-bush and made his own way safely home. Gospodarev, however, who was very badly wounded, was found by the Turks and taken to Melnik. After he had recovered sufficiently he was put on trial in Salonika. Asked by the court why he had entered Turkish territory, he replied’ ‘We came to kill Sandansky, but he was too quick for us.’ [15]


In view of all the circumstances, including the bitter legacy of all Stoyanov’s previous incursions, it must be said that Yané acted with surprising magnanimity. Although he had long ago learnt that there are times when certain heads have to roll in order to bring others to their senses, he still believed that education is preferable to execution. The Supremists had come with the express purpose of killing him, and yet, in his hour of triumph he killed only four in cold blood, and only then after a trial at which two of the accused were set free.


When, however, the news began to trickle back to the Principality, howls of indignation and torrents of abuse filled the columns of the Tsonchevist newspaper Reformi. In a report from the so-called ‘Struma Revolutionary Region’ [16] headed ‘The Evil-doings of Sandansky’, Yané and his young chetnik, Georgi Moadzhira, are said to have hacked the wounded to pieces with scimitars, and his men are alleged to have tortured and killed the four who were executed in the most brutal manner imaginable. The release of the other two accused is inferred by the figures



13. Arnaudov gives the total strength of the Supremist cheta as 52. According to him, 13 were killed in the fighting and 39 were captured. Ivan Dostin (born in 1883 in Vranya) says that Dyado Iliya’s son was among the captured and that Yané sent him back to his father, (from memoirs recorded in 1973 by Krum Mihailov). The Sofia newspaper Vecherna Poshta (22.IV.1905) reported that 37 prisoners were taken. Its later reports (28.IV.1905) give the numbers killed or wounded in the battle as 9, apart from the 4 executed. A memorial service for 11 victims was held in Sofia on May 9, 1905.


14. Memoirs of Georgi Kotsev, OIM Blagoevgrad, No. 1596.


15. Ibid.


16. The Supreme Committee had no right to form ‘revolutionary regions’ on the Organization’s territory, any more than it had the right to send uninvited cheti. Tsonchev himself paid lip-service to the resolution passed at the Eighth and Ninth Congresses in 1901 concerning the limitation of the role of the émigrés to moral and material aid, without directing or forcing the pace of the work in the Interior.





given, rather than explicitly reported, and one cannot help wondering if the weak reporting of this important aspect of the affair is to prevent readers from asking why—if Yané was really such a bloodthirsty monster—he did not hack them and the rest of his helpless prisoners to pieces as well, instead of acquitting and releasing them. The article ends with a postscript alleging that Yané had killed sixty men, women and children in the villages, but it does not offer a single name, date or case in support of the allegation. [17] On April 30, the paper produced a leading article in which Yané and his comrades are referred to as ‘Socialist-anarchist scum’, and Professor Agura, of Sofia University, is violently attacked for supporting Yané and providing him with arms and money. The same issue contains a Letter from Tŭrnovo—a  tirade of many words and few facts about the ‘latest Cain-like exploit of the insatiably bloodthirsty Sandansky’: ‘How is it possible,’ cries the writer, ‘that such a villain can live under the Bulgarian sky?’


The pro-Sarafov paper Vecherna Poshta printed much fewer, shorter and less sensational accounts of the battle, concluding that all that was really known about the affair was that nine had been killed or wounded in the fighting. The four executions are also mentioned, but, although it, too, indulged in a number of uncomplimentary epithets, calling Yané ‘the evil genius of the Macedonian Cause’, ‘a fratricidal butcher’, etc., its reports contain no hint of scimitars or of wanton cruelty. [18]


In the face of the violent press campaign against Yané and his associates, the Editorial Board of Revolyutsionen List published an appeal to all committees in the Serres and Strumitsa Regions for information about Supremist activity in their areas, and it also included in its ‘Post’ section a personal message to Yané: ‘Why do you not write? Here practically nothing definite is known and those most closely involved are stopping at nothing in order to make maximum use of our silence.’ [19]


A fortnight later, armed with an increasing body of information, the paper printed an editorial on the incident, and an Open Letter to Reformi, [20] written by Petko Penchev on behalf of the Serres Regional Committee. These were followed by a special Official Supplement, [21] containing a long statement by the Editorial Board, and a mass of documentary evidence, with names, dates, etc., concerning the intolerable behaviour of the Supremists in the Pirin area.


None of the Organization’s statements enter into arguments over the details of what happened in Kashina. [22] Their main concern is to inform



17. Reformi, 22.IV.1905.


18. Vecherna Poshta, 22.IV.1905, 28.IV.1905 and 9.V.1905.


19. Revolyutsionen List, No. 13, 1.V.1905.


20. Ibid., No. 14, 15.V.1905.


21. Ibid., 2.VI.1905.


22. Whether or not unwarranted brutality was used in respect of any of the wounded or the four condemned Supremists remains an open question. Penchev (Revolyutsion-





the public of the differences, both in theory and practice, between the two bodies, and to explain why the Organization cannot permit Supremist activity on its territory. ‘We would have ignored and left unanswered the ugly accusations of Reformi,’ writes Penchev, ‘had they not been launched with the aim of exploiting and misleading Bulgarian public opinion. It must be admitted that our public is virtually unaware of the nature of the two trends in the Macedonian Cause—Supremism and that represented by the Internal Organization. It gives its support indiscriminately to both the one and the other; it is inspired by the pure idea of liberating Macedonia and is confused by our bloody quarrels. This compels us to publish the present open letter and to give the necessary clarification.’


The editorial in the Official Supplement is a detailed, comprehensive statement of the nature and policies of the Internal Organization, already familiar to regular readers of Revolyutsionen List, namely, that, while educating and preparing the conscious revolutionary forces necessary to wage a successful struggle for liberation, the Organization also educates and prepares the population as a whole for a free life, by teaching it local self-government and endeavouring to secure more tolerable conditions of life during the actual struggle for liberation; that the Organization fights on behalf of all oppressed people, regardless of nationality or religion, and must therefore be internationalist in outlook; that the Organization is an independent, sovereign body, which conducts its own affairs from within its own territory. Co-operation with the Supremists is considered to be impossible, since, ideologically speaking, they represent the antithesis of the Organization, and, while the Organization employs a complex system of various forms of struggle against Turkish tyranny, the Supremists use one form only—the stirring up of ‘rebellion’, which, the paper declares, cannot and will not achieve the liberation of Macedonia.


Anticipating that an ill-informed public may well ask why the Supremists have to be driven out of Macedonia, since, after all, in spite of all the differences of opinion, they have come with guns in their hands to



en List, No. 14, 15.V.1905) does not dispute the facts as given by Reformi, but merely expresses astonishment at the impertinence of Reformi’’s howls of indignation over what Yané did, in view of past Supremist attacks on Organization cheti and the murder by Supremist supporters of such people as Alexander Iliev, Georgi Ivanitsa Danchev and Lazar Traikov. Pointing out that Stoyanov came into Pirin with the avowed aim of taking Sandansky’s head, Penchev asks: ‘Is Sandansky to blame if Stoyanov failed to take his head and broke his own?’ The editorial (same number) includes a general reminder that, no matter how great the provocation, enemies should be treated as human beings, and, if found guilty of crimes, they should be executed quickly without being tortured in the process. Cruelty, the paper points out, achieves nothing and merely serves to alienate public opinion. Later, in the same issue, in a comment on press reaction, the paper says that the account of the incident printed in Reformi contains ‘much exaggeration and distortion’. It is possible that, in the heat of the moment, the Organization’s men were none too gentle with their opponents and even that excesses occurred, but the fact remains that the majority of the Supremists were sent home, safe and sound.





fight and die for the liberation of the people, [23] the Organization freely admits that some Supremists come with entirely good intentions. At the same time, the Organization insists that there is no room for two independent revolutionary organizations on one and the same territory, and that a united leadership is essential for the maintenance of proper security and discipline. Apart from these basic revolutionary principles, the Organization cites the damage done to the Cause by the Supremist incursions of 1902, and the employment by the Supremists of unrepentent bandits and other undesirable persons, such as Doncho and Koté, rejected by the Organization because of their crimes and lack of morals.


The Official Supplement gives detailed examples of Supremist outrages, including extortion from villagers, the hanging of a man who refused to pay, the killing of members of the Organization, attacks on teachers, whom the Supremists regard as pillars of the Organization, the closing of schools rather than allowing them to function with teachers who belong to the Organization, fines on families whose daughters marry members of the Organization, the beating, and even killing, of persons who go to work in villages loyal to the Organization, the stealing of cattle, and so forth. The Organization particularly resents the Supremist practice of encouraging the population to betray its cheti and local leaders to the Turks. Believing that to teach betrayal is to demoralize the people, the Organization punishes with death not only those who betray its own cheti, but also those who betray rival cheti, including those of the Supremists, to the Turks. The Organization asks those who are dismayed by the Kashina affair to remember that it was the Supremists who began the civil war, setting ambushes for the Organization’s cheti, and generally hindering it at a time when the population was being attacked not only by the Turks, but also by the Greeks and Serbs. Readers are reminded that Stoyanov entered territory which was not his, in defiance of the Organization’s rules, and with hostile intent, and therefore he cannot complain if the Organization took unprecedentedly drastic measures to put an end to such incursions. In the Serres Region, numerous Supremist cheti have been disarmed and sent back to the Principality, only to reappear, and, in the past, the Organization has actually damaged itself by being too lenient.


Through Revolyutsionen List, the Organization appeals to all Supremists who are sincere in their desire to help the cause of liberation to abandon General Tsonchev and to join the ranks of the Organization. In conclusion, after criticizing the Bulgarian Press for not doing enough to explain the situation to its readers, the editors of Revolyutsionen List



23. Reformi, for example, (No. 24, 1905) printed an emotional Poem in Prose, by V. Kanazirev, dedicated to Yordan Stoyanov, in which the following lines occur: ‘In the name of this Organization, Sandansky killed his brothers. He slew them and cut them to pieces, as though they were the lowest criminals, solely because they wanted to lay down their lives for their people.’





declare that, if the events in Kashina manage to shake public opinion in Bulgaria and force it to see which is the correct road forwards, then the otherwise futile loss of life will bring some benefit to the Cause.


Among those who read the Organization’s statements with the care that they deserved and who were indeed enlightened as to its true nature and aims, was the veteran Communist Dimitŭr Blagoev. Hitherto, despite the fact that he himself was from Macedonia, he had paid scant attention to the Internal Organization in his public statements, although, in a number of articles, he had roundly criticized the policies of the Supreme Committee, which he regarded as nationalistic and doomed to failure, and, from the very beginning, he had insisted that the Macedonian problem was soluble only within the framework of a Balkan Federation. In general, his attitude towards the participation of Socialists in the Macedonian movement was negative, since he feared that the all-too-small membership of the Party would be distracted from its main political task, and, in any case, he considered that the composition of the Macedonian societies was so ‘motley’ that it would be a waste of time trying to work within them. [24]


In 1905, however, Blagoev completely changed his attitude towards Socialist participation in Macedonian affairs, as far as the Internal Organization was concerned. His attention was first attracted by a circular, signed by Yané and Penchev, and, curiously enough, printed in Reformi, in the same number as the original broadside over the affair at Kashina. The editors of Reformi say that they are printing the circular ‘so that the wiseacres in Bulgaria., led by Professor Agura, can see how the population in Macedonia is being educated by the "revolutionaries" whom they support morally and materially.’ The editors also make fun of certain spelling errors in foreign expressions, such as en masse and Divide et impera, explaining that it was a copy ‘made by Sandansky’s illiterate supporters, who, together with their boss, understand nothing of what is written in the Circular.’ [25]


In fact, this cheap jibe rebounded upon its writers, for the circular is perfectly clear to anyone who takes the trouble to read it, and Revolyutsionen List subsequently thanked Reformi for giving it publicity. Addressed to all committees in the Serres Region, it criticizes the Supremist ‘risings’ of 1902, and warns members against Sarafov, who is said to be doubly dangerous since he is nominally regarded as being in the Organization. It also stresses the vanity of seeking or relying upon outside help, as well as the need to avoid national antagonisms which allow the Turks to ‘divide and rule’. ‘In all its actions, it (the Serres Regional Committee— M.M.) is ever inspired by the idea of uniting in one whole all discontented



24. See Blagoev’s footnote to an article by Dimo Hadzhidimov (signed ‘Venelin’) entitled Macedonia and the Workers’ Party, in Novo Vreme, No. 6, 1901. Hadzhidimov commented on Blagoev’s note in Izgrev, No. 21, 4.VIII.1901.


25. The Circular is dated 20.I.1905, and was printed in Reformi, No. 19, 22.IV.1905.





elements—even the Turks—in order to win more quickly and more easily a common freedom through common effort.’ The Circular ends with a reminder to all members that since the Organization is ‘one and indivisible’, it cannot tolerate rival organizations on its territory, and therefore unauthorized external cheti should be destroyed or expelled.


Through the Circular, and later through the Official Supplement, Blagoev came to realize the social and internationalist character of the Internal Organization and reached the conclusion that its aims and activities were, in fact, acceptable to Socialists. In an article entitled On the Macedonian Question, [26] which represents his first detailed comment in print upon the nature of the Internal Organization, he quoted extensively from both documents, expressed his approval, and, looking to the future, stressed the need to organize the urban working class of all nationalities as well as the peasants. His conclusion was that ‘our comrades who go to Macedonia, or who live and work there permanently, may enter its (the Organization’s—M.M.) ranks, fully and quite sincerely submitting to its regulations’, and work through its ‘lawful channels’ and congresses to introduce more Socialist elements into its theory and practice.


The Socialist leader’s unexpected approval and support came as a pleasant surprise to Yané, who had found himself suddenly deserted by many of his erstwhile friends in Sofia. All the districts of the Serres Region already subscribed to Novo Vreme, and Yané wrote to his cousin, Ivan Harizanov, who was then a student in Sofia, asking him to obtain and send him five more copies. [27]


As time went on, Yané was to suffer increasingly from a ‘bad Press’ in the Principality. His political enemies were vociferous, and the bewildered general public, who sincerely desired the speedy liberation of their brethren in Macedonia, failed to understand why the ‘evil genius of the Macedonian Cause’ stood in the way of gallant patriots who wanted ‘to lay down their lives for their people.’


In fact, although on occasions Yané was prepared to be ruthless in self-defence, he was as much saddened by the ugly internecine struggles as anyone in Sofia. One of his former chetnitsi and supporters, Atanas Yanev (Tatso), has described his attitude towards the struggles with the Supremists:


‘. . . It was somewhere around 1905-1906. At that time, the Supremists—Ferdinand’s generals, as we called them—appeared in our part of the country as well. And they managed to get a foothold in the village of Lyubovka. "We are not going to stand for this," Yané decided, and collected a group of us. "Go and wake up Lyubovka! See to it that there’s no bloodshed!"


‘There were then Turkish soldiers in both Lyubovka and Bozhdovo.



26. Novo Vreme, No. 6, June 1905.


27. Ivan Harizanov, Dvete mi sreshti s Dyado Blagoev, Den, 22.V.1945.





The local people betrayed us Sandanisti to the police, and those ones were just waiting for that in order to go for us. We tried to reason with the Lyubovka folk to abandon "the Generals’ people"—that was Yané’s will, that was what freedom and the Cause demanded—but do you think anyone would listen? Those were troubled times—brother killed brother, and the enemies among our own people were sometimes more numerous than the soldiers! And we clashed with two "generals’ people" in Lyubovka, and the Turks came after us. They fired and we retreated. I don’t know whether we hit any Turks, but our guide Dinko Vlahcheto fell. We were saved by nightfall. . . We went back. We told Yané what had happened, and he was silent as though struck dumb. He was silent, and sighed; only at one time he said: "We’re all Bulgarians, Tatso, and yet we kill each other to no useful purpose whatsoever. This futile bloodshed weighs heavy upon me. . . What do you think?"


‘What could I say to him? I was a simple chetnik. I’m telling you, those were troubled times, and there was plenty of unnecessary bloodshed. . . As for Yané, bright soul, he grieved over everything.’ [28]



28. Memoirs of Atanas Yanev, Eho, No. 21 (590), 26.V.1972. The memoirs were recorded in 1967 when Yanev was nearly 90.


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